Q: With the way the schedule is and being on the road at PSU this weekend, talk about how important it is to get a win at home this week.
Todd Lickliter: I haven't wavered on our approach. I think that the task in front of you is the most important. I told the guys yesterday nobody is going to give us anything. It's not going to be easy and that is the beauty of this league. If you can have success in it, then it's very satisfying and we understand the challenges at hand. Wisconsin is well coached and they have been at the top of the league for years. We need to refocus, get better, accept the challenge and move on. Purdue was a tough one, as you can imagine. I feel like we have played some pretty good basketball. The last two weekends against good opponents on the road, we have not challenged the way we would like to and we have to address that.
Q: When you look at the last two losses, what have been the biggest problems?
Lickliter: We have struggled with offensive efficiency and effectiveness. It's a situation where the game is physical, it's fast, and it's been hard for us to adjust. You can practice and prepare, but until you go into the arena and experience it as some of our guys are; and some are doing it for the second time; we have quite a few that are doing it for the first time. There's that adjustment. Hopefully we are gaining some understanding. We have to gain strength and we are not going to do that by tomorrow night. That has to be an emphasis from here on out, for the future. I think sometimes you may not realize it until you are in there. We are going to have to do it now with efficiency and poise and a little more toughness with the basketball. I think we have defended fairly well in stretches and at Michigan we defended in the half-court well. I thought that we defended fairly well at Purdue. They got run out's on us and so did Michigan in the transition and we have to address that. A lot of that is turnovers.
Q: Early on it seemed like your freshmen and first year players weren't playing like first year players. Do you think the youth is showing up with some of the inconsistency we are seeing?
Lickliter: I'm sure that you can imagine the demand of the Big Ten with how competitive it is. We are playing teams that have had success in the nonconference and they are established. It's more demanding. For these young guys going through it, you can tell them and they can watch it, but experiencing it is a whole different deal. If we can maintain our composure offensively, I think we can be competitive in this league. I mentioned this before, but LaVall Jordan said to me that he thinks we might be fourth or fifth in the country in minutes of experience on the court in the nation, from the bottom. That tells you we are pretty youthful.
Q: Last week you shook things up the lineup. How do you think it worked? Did it improve things? Is it a work in progress?
Lickliter: I really believe that it's a work in progress. I think we have an awareness situation where I want our guys to have some options. We have got to start making the right read and we have to start finishing. When I look at Purdue, it was tough because we were at the basket a number of times and we weren't able to complete that. Our spacing wasn't great and we have worked on that. I do think it's a work in progress and you just have to make a decision as to if you feel what you are doing is effective. I really feel it can be; then you have to continue to allow it to grow. There will probably be some growing pains and in the last couple of weeks there has been. I don't want to make excuses, but I do think that Cyrus would help. He helps us with spacing. He helps us with duck-ins. He helps us with getting extra shots. I don't want to minimize his absence, but at that same time it's giving guys a chance to play, as he did last year in Jarryd's absence and he capitalized on it. We would rather have him, but maybe in the long run it will benefit us in some way.
Q: You have had more turnovers than field goals the last two games. Other than the opponent, do you think your guys are valuing the basketball enough?
Lickliter: I think they value it. As you look at it, each opponent gives you something different to look at and we have struggled to finish plays. The other day we had two or three where we just mishandled. I think there is a value for it, but for what reason, and I think part of it is the physical aspect and the speed. Our guys are really trying hard and I don't want to limit them because that plays into the defense. We are asking them to make reads with pressure on them and finish plays. I think in the long run it is going to benefit us and we will make strides, but we have to help them as a coaching staff and it is my responsibility to help them with the spacing. I think that has been an issue and it has been my fault and I going to address it.
Q: You talked about Cyrus. When do you expect him back?
Lickliter: He has a high ankle sprain and he has a lot of swelling. He has had all the MRI's and all that sort of stuff and it has been something where maybe it has taken a little longer than what they thought. As I said last week, he got out here and gave it a try and it may have set him back a little bit in practice. But, it's hard to hold a guy back if he really wants to go. You never know and it set him back, I think. He is in a boot and he is doing everything he is supposed to do. At this point, I don't want to get him back on it too soon and have it lingering. I don't think he will play and I hope it won't be longer than this week.
Q: Talk about Aaron Fuller and the progress he has made this year.
Lickliter: Aaron is a skilled player and probably was surprised by the speed and the physical nature of things, as a lot of players are. Aaron is a guy who really wants to do what is asked and there is a lot coming at him at a high rate of speed. There are times when he is making an adjustment and the play is happening at a higher rate of speed than he is used to because he was playing high school ball last year. I think he has great upside and he is a terrific teammate. He is going to know the system well and put people in tough spots. He has got to gain strength. That has to be our emphasis in the off season, no question.
Q: What have you seen from Wisconsin this year?
Lickliter: I remember last year and Joel Cornette was just commenting how well they pass from each position. Well, what I was talking about with our spacing, they are masters of spacing. It's four around one and they put each guy in the post. You have to be able to guard. Your perimeter players have to be able to guard in the post, your posts have to be able to guard on the perimeter. That is vital and I think they play great position defense and they play poised. I was surprised in their last game and I didn't see the end of it, but they were in control most of the game, which is pretty typical of Wisconsin. They are a really good team. I think (Joe) Krabbenhoft is a guy that brings it every night with whatever you need. Trevon Hughes is a terrific point guard. I like Jason Bohannon, who keeps his spacing and sees the floor really well. They are a really versatile team. I am not sleeping real well as you can imagine.
Q: Did you think David Palmer could do what he did or were you surprised?
Lickliter: I really wasn't. I thought he could do it. I was pleased mostly with his poise and his approach. It is a little bit like Cyrus Tate in that he wasn't playing early last year, but he remained focus and kept trying to do what we wanted him to do. David's has gone on a little bit longer, but I really respected his approach last week. In my opinion he really earned more minutes in practice. I think he is much more comfortable with what we would like him to do. All in all, he gave us something. I heard him afterwards mention that when Cyrus gets back he hopes to contribute at the four and I think that would be a good thing if he can do that and it's something we need to look at. I have been pleased with his development, but I am not surprised because he has been practicing like that.
Q: With the NCAA decision last week, have you ever had the urge to go out and scout a seventh grader?
Lickliter: You are assuming that I'm not. (laughs) What I said last night was I think some of that is unhealthy. Guys growing up should play because they love playing the game and then if the scholarship comes then great because you have earned it. But, a lot of that attention that young and emphasis on your college career when you should be developing and playing for the love of the game, I am not positive that is a real positive.
Lickliter: That's the way it appears to me. He didn't practice yesterday, so unless something really, you know, good happens (it's unlikely). If he comes in today and can practice, I am going to play him. I haven't spoken to John Streif today and it's day to day with him.
Q: Since classes started today, is everyone eligible?
Lickliter: I will have the official report this afternoon and I don't deal in hypotheticals. We are just going to wait and get the official report. They are eligible no matter what until classes start, so I haven't heard everybody, so I am just waiting to hear. We will know for sure at the end of the day.